What Jesus Couldn’t Save Me From

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Theorem 7:

Every man and every woman has a course, depending partly on the self, and partly on the environment, which is natural and necessary for each. Anyone who is forced from his own course, either through not understanding himself, or through external opposition, comes into conflict with the order of the Universe, and suffers accordingly.

Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice 

Ever since my admittedly haphazard Facebook post 15 months ago in which I revealed that I wasn’t a Christian, my friends and family have been asking me what I think and feel about…well…anything that’s not superficial, and for the most part I haven’t told them because I didn’t know if they could handle it. For a long time I didn’t even know how to put these thoughts into words. But there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to speak openly about his personal philosophy, so here’s a little bit of a look into the mind of Jeremiah.

It’s Monday night. I’m lying restless in bed next to a girl who will never be “mine,” and though I admire and truly care about her, I will never be “hers.” And I’m fine with this because ownership is for inanimate objects and not individuals, but there is something else that’s keeping me awake, and I don’t want to bother my friend with my tossing and turning, so I get up and go to the couch and finish the movie we left playing in the living room. Fifteen minutes later with my head still buzzing, I step outside for some air and think about going home, but I’m too tired to try and navigate my way through Pullman road construction, and I should be sleeping anyway. Just go back to bed. Be still and try to sleep. Don’t wake her.

Maybe it’s guilt. I should be touring. I should be out there booking more shows, but at the end of the day, I’m a songwriter who writes for a band. And though I greatly enjoy performing and entertaining, I am used to working alone. I get frustrated trying to sync up my own schedule with the schedules of other artists as well as venues. And between rehearsals and booking full band shows, I practice this self-defeating statement. And then I just read a book or write a song or practice because ultimately, the songwriting and the skill are the important parts, and as long as I’m stressing myself out about booking and social media, I accomplish nothing. I am fortunate enough these days to have a very generous friend who often allows me access to his studio equipment, so I’ve been learning to use ProTools myself and recording new songs instead of sending e-mail after e-mail to unresponsive venues. The studio is where I thrive, and the more time I spend there, the more I love it. Aside from my single adult responsibilities, this has been my life the past six months: working, coming home, reading, thinking too much, practicing, thinking more, writing, critiquing, and a bit of recording. It’s given me the space I need to reevaluate life. On my own terms.

And it’s a combination of events that have led to me reevaluating my life. Sure, I turned 27 and after four years of studying poetry and music, I’m still not a legendary songwriter, but I always knew that dream was crazy. I’m a relatively sane musician. I have visions of grandeur, I know they are ridiculous, but I can’t rid myself of them, so I keep working at my craft. No, turning 27 is not the sole catalyst. There’s something that happened in me back in March when, for the first time in years, I saw the girl I dated for the first two years of college. Her mother, a close family friend, was in the final stages of moving to Montana. There was a going-away party and a moving party, and I didn’t want to miss my chance to say goodbye. Needless to say, the ex and I ran into each other a couple of times, which was fine, but seeing her reminded me of who I was seven years ago and how much I’d inadvertently hurt her just by being a headstrong and self-righteous person. Now she’s married with two kids. And I looked at those kids and thought, if things had gone just a little differently, this girl and I could have had kids the same age by now. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am too irresponsible and selfish to be a father, let alone a husband. But I’m old enough that I could be both. And I really don’t want that, but should I?

At times like these I start wondering if I’ve even accomplished anything, so I start going through the mental checklist of my accomplishments over the last twelve months. This year I’ve released a second solo album, assembled a band, written the better half of a third album, been embarrassingly love-crazed, been irreconcilable, been heartbroken, and committed innumerable “transgressions.” Transgressions that I didn’t think I was capable of committing seven years ago. Transgressions that I didn’t have the self-esteem to commit seven years ago. And though I have accomplished things I never thought I could, I still suffer from the same insecurities that prevented me from accomplishing my goals at a younger age. And I still feel unsatisfied. But that comes as no surprise to me. I’ve heard every imaginable version of the story of the man built an entire empire for himself and died just as discontent as he was when he started. I may or may not end up with an empire at the end of my life, but I know that however much I accomplish, it will never be enough.

Some of you may say that my discontentment comes from storing treasures here on earth rather than the afterlife. To you I reply that the afterlife is a great unknown. Neither heaven nor hell nor any other future is guaranteed for that which some call the soul. I’ve wrestled with the question of eternity my whole life, and at some point, I just learned to be content with the idea that this life is probably all we get. The only afterlife we have is the hope of leaving behind our legacy and our work. Honestly, this life is all I want. Eternity is too long. I get bored enough as it is. And to get even more honest, spending eternity praising and worshiping some abstract spirit in the sky sounds just as bad as spending eternity with weeping and gnashing of teeth where the worm never dies.

But I can’t hear a worship song without feeling regretful. Regretful that following a difficult, but happy childhood being raised by hippies, single moms, and Montessori school teachers on the Florida beach, I was uprooted at the age of 10 and placed in Smalltown, Idaho. Regretful that my family subsequently converted to hardcore conservatism. Regretful that I spent the better half of my adolescence singing songs in church and watching holy-rollers on the floor laughing and speaking in tongues for at least 15 hours a week–no exaggeration–instead of making friends and learning how to manage affairs with the fairer sex. And then I spent the first three years out of high school trying to figure out the rationale behind maintaining a conservative and morally strict lifestyle without becoming a hypocrite only to come to the conclusion that said lifestyle was making me more and more miserable and lonely. That the so-called God-shaped-hole was an invention of my religion, that my involvement in the church had created the hole, and that my continued involvement was just making the hole bigger. And sure I had my social interactions and I had plenty of my delinquent moments, but not enough to save me from curiosity in adulthood. Not enough to give me the wisdom that I feel I should have at this age.

Yes. I do put pressure on myself. I know I do. I wish I didn’t, but I do, and I’m not sure where it comes from or why. I’m working on it. Every day I tell myself that circumstances were often beyond my control, but I still have my regrets. I can’t help wishing that things would have gone differently. I don’t want to be regretful. I don’t want to live in discontentment. I don’t want to hold on to these things anymore, but I think about them daily, and it hurts my head. My chest and gut cramp up. Wasted time. As hard as I try, I can’t think of any other way to understand it. All that time I spent trying to live righteously for God by immersing myself deeper and deeper into a culture that I never felt was truly accepting of me. Finally coming to a place of self-acceptance, but being so deeply immersed in the culture that I didn’t know how to display the self I had accepted.

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Out of Touch

Hello, friends. It’s been years since my last blog post, at least 6 months since I’ve more than touched my personal Facebook, and (insert sarcastic tone) 2 years since my last confession. All jokes aside, I apologize for being out of touch. In the last year since I graduated from college, there have been a lot of changes and challenges in my personal life, and without going into detail, I’ll just tell you that I haven’t had the emotional or mental energy to keep up with the caucus race that is social media.

But alack and alas, the summer has freed me from my day job at the elementary school, and the DIY musician podcasts I’ve been listening to have been guilting me into updating my social media, so here I go.

First of all, I don’t mean to be a downer, I’m just a little sick of listening to people say over and over again that I need to update my Twitter and make music videos and take Instagram photos of my studio sessions and play a million shows in a million different places when I can barely afford the gas to travel after spending all the money that I don’t have on putting out a record that I can’t afford to properly promote in order to turn a profit. Speaking of profit, apparently the key to music sales is to stop selling and start telling a story and engaging people in your process so that by the time the product is ready, the people are ready to put money into it. In other words: “update your social media and tell everyone everything really cool that’s going on in your life all the time! It will make you really cool and popular!”

You know what? I was never popular in high school, and I was really glad when all that bullshit was over nearly ten years ago. I’ve never been great at the whole “win friends and influence people” thing. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because I’m too vocal about my opinions and too quiet when it comes to meaningless chit chat. In any case, I don’t give a shit because I think I’m pretty awesome, and I have no problem sharing that with the world, but quite honestly I get tired of running into someone on the street, trying to chat with them, and then hearing them say, “Oh yeah! I think I read that on your Facebook.” And I’m glad they care enough to follow and remember what I do, but then I get a little paranoid and start wondering what else people can tell about my personal life just by coming across my updates on the news feed or scrolling through my timeline. Not that I have anything to hide, I just like a little bit of privacy sometimes.

And then venues–bless them for giving us a place to play and to listen, and bless the bookers who have to suffer through the task of sorting through and figuring out who is and isn’t legit and who will get a draw–but I just get so lost on my end figuring out where I want to play and how I can get a good draw in an area I’ve never played before. And then they ask where else you’ve played in the area and say that you can’t play there until you’ve played a two hour set at another place down the road that won’t let you in because they’ve never heard of you. And all the while I’ve got to juggle that with two day jobs. By the end of the day, I’ve had no time for myself to process and appreciate or learn from each of the significant little events that have happened over the course of my day. Oh, and songwriting? Jesus! Who’s got a spare second to sit in front of a computer screen or notebook and agonize over message, story, line breaks, word choice, rhyme scheme, melody, harmony, and rhythm?

Anyway, I’ve said all this not to complain. I chose this life, and I still love the music. The problem that I have is that I never chose this because I wanted to be cool and popular and have everybody like me. I chose this because I heard more than a few songs that expressed lyrically and musically emotions, ideas, and conflicts that I didn’t know anyone else felt or thought about. It made me feel less lonely. I just want to create that for someone else. Unfortunately, finding the people who connect to my music in such a way is a difficult task that requires a lot of promotion via social media, so I guess for now I’ll bite the bullet and do it.

So raise a glass, and toast to electric vanity!